Husband of U.S. Airman Convicted for The Murder of His Stepson in Japan
Law Enacted in 2000 Authorizes Prosecution for Overseas Crimes
Baltimore, Maryland - A federal jury today convicted Roberto E. DeLeon, age 27, of Glen Burnie, Maryland for the murder and assault of his stepson while the family was stationed in Japan, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.
"Robert DeLeon has been held accountable for the senseless murder of his eight-year old stepson Jordan Peterson in Japan, where Jordan's mother was serving in the U.S. Air Force," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. "Although the murder did not occur on a U.S. military base, federal law allows us to prosecute persons who accompany our Armed Forces for crimes committed in foreign countries."
According to the evidence presented at the three week trial, Jordan died on April 11, 2007, as a result of internal bleeding due to a laceration of his liver caused by blunt force trauma to the abdomen. The injury is consistent with a hard punch to the stomach - a type of punishment and discipline DeLeon would inflict upon Jordan, according to trial testimony. Jordan was 8 years old, 3 feet 11 inches, and weighed 52 pounds at the time of his death.
At the time of Jordan's murder, DeLeon was the husband of a member of the U.S. Air Force assigned to Kadena Air Base in Japan. DeLeon had joined her and her two children on a tour of duty. The evidence at trial showed that, very soon after DeLeon moved into the family home, he began to assert disciplinary authority over the children. Jordan, in particular, received the brunt of DeLeon's strict and stern measures.
Evidence of the abuse of Jordan, going back to September 2006, came from testimony provided during the trial by physicians, family advocacy personnel, teachers, and neighbors, who had contact with and observed the injuries to Jordan. At the time of Jordan's death, DeLeon was in counselling with the Family Advocacy Program on base because of the severe punishment he inflicted upon Jordan.
According to evidence presented at trial, after the defendant returned to Japan from a brief visit to the United States in March 2007, DeLeon began a new form of abuse: making the young boy stand with his arms outstretched while DeLeon punched him in the stomach as hard as he could.
Evidence established that the fatal blow to Jordan's abdomen was likely inflicted upon Jordan sometime between the night before and the morning of his death. Later that morning, Jordan complained to his stepfather that his stomach, abdomen and groin hurt, of blurry vision, dizziness and an inability to eat. At one point, Jordan was slumped over the sink. Emergency medical personnel arrived at about 12:56 pm to find Jordan with no vital signs. Despite the efforts of medical personnel to revive the young boy, doctors pronounced him dead at about 2:00 pm.
The medical examiner performed the autopsy and testified at trial. The autopsy revealed that in addition to the lacerated liver, there were numerous other injuries to Jordan's body including: welts on the buttocks in caused by a belt or strap, bruising on his thigh, multiple bruises to the chest consistent with forceful finger poking, and bruising on the wrist and forearm, consistent with being grabbed. The welts on the buttocks inflicted a few days prior were the basis of the assault charge in the Indictment.
DeLeon faces a maximum sentence of life and a mandatory minimum of thirty years in prison for the murder and 10 years in prison for assault causing serious bodily injury. U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett has scheduled sentencing for January 6, 2010 at 3:00 p.m..
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the Air Force Office of Special Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their investigative work. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorneys P. Michael Cunningham and Paul E. Budlow, who are prosecuting the case.